- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

With a resolution condemning the war effort stalled in the Senate, the foolishness shifts to the House, where this week’s voting on Iraq will be limited to passage of a resolution denouncing the president’s efforts to send additional troops to combat al Qaeda and the other jihadists present there. But clearly, in the eyes of the House Democratic leadership, that’s just the first step toward withdrawal or “redeployment” of troops away from the most dangerous, violent locations in Iraq in the very near future, even if that virtually guarantees a defeat for the United States in the larger war against Islamist fascism.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is quoted as suggesting privately that passage of a resolution denouncing what the troops are attempting to achieve is only the first step, and that binding legislation to end the war will follow. Rep. John Murtha, a Pelosi ally who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, wants to tie further troop deployments to Iraq to combat “readiness standards” that the military does not currently meet.

As House Republicans in particular consider how they will vote on the resolution that will come to the floor this week, they need to understand that there is no serious way to square “support for the troops” with a vote for a resolution that expresses contempt for what the troops are attempting to achieve in Iraq. Any such resolution is step one of a multi-step process aimed at ensuring that U.S. troops are withdrawn from Iraq in failure.

In previous editorials we have focused on the strategic implications that defeat in Iraq would have for the United States. But members also need to understand that a geopolitical disaster for the United States would have appalling humanitarian repercussions. In their new landmark Brookings Institution study of potential “spillover” from an all-out civil war in Iraq, analysts Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Byman write that as of November 2006, almost 2 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring states and 1.6 million are displaced inside Iraq. Between 50,000 and 150,000 have died since the U.S.-led invasion to depose Saddam Hussein in March 2003. These numbers would soar if Iraq spiralled into all-out civil war.

What if the situation dramatically worsens — as would happen if the United States began withdrawing its troops from Iraq in the coming months? The Brookings study (available at www.brookings.edu) looks at several ways to mitigate the catastrophe that would result. It suggests that the United States set up safe havens “on major roads preferably near airstrips along Iraq’s borders” that would be manned by U.S. and other coalition personnel, whose responsibilities would include creating an infrastructure to house, feed and otherwise care for perhaps hundreds of thousands of additional Iraqi refugees. The United States and its allies would be responsible for disarming the refugees.

But there are myriad financial, political, logistical and moral problems with any such proposal, including the fact that it would require Iran’s cooperation to establish such facilities along its border with Iraq. Further, such safe havens would also require that the United States deploy tens of thousands of troops to Iraqi border regions, ensuring that the U.S. presence in Iraq remains “a recruiting poster for the jihadist movement.” But perhaps the most serious problem with this concept is that such a program would require the U.S. military to cede the center of Iraq, where the overwhelming majority of the population lives, to militias and insurgent terrorists. Would the United States be able to maintain tens of thousands of troops standing guard on Iraq’s borders, while Iraqi men, women and children are massacred nearby, without intervening?

We understand that members may feel that by voting for some anti-war resolution this week, they are giving themselves political “cover.” But they are delusional if they think the Pelosi/Murtha approach they will be supporting isn’t a major step towards a humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq.

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